Ostrea edulis (European oyster)
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PicturesTop of page
OverviewTop of page
Of the numerous species of food oysters (Ostreidae) only about 6 or 7 species are exploited at commercial levels (Gosling, 2003; FIGIS, 2005). The two major groups of commercial ostreids are cupped oysters of the genus Crassostrea and flat oysters of the genus Ostrea (Héral and Deslous-Paoli, 1991). Because of their long history of exploitation and great economic importance both groups have been extensively reviewed for over 100 years (see for example: Philpots, 1890; Orton, 1937; Korringa, 1952; Yonge, 1960; Héral and Deslous-Paoli, 1991; Kennedy et al., 1996). Ostrea edulis is euryhaline enabling it to inhabit inshore waters and estuaries, which means that, despite being less tolerant of sedimentation than cupped oysters of the genus Crassostrea (Yonge, 1960), it can be cultivated under a wide range of conditions.
Oysters have been part of the human diet since prehistoric times and have been exploited commercially for at least two millennia (Yonge, 1960). In Europe oyster fisheries were historically based entirely on Ostrea edulis until their widespread decline at the end of the nineteenth century (Gosling, 2003). The decline in oyster fisheries in Europe was paralleled elsewhere, particularly in the USA, and was largely a consequence of overfishing, habitat destruction and pollution (Orton, 1937; Gosling, 2003; Kirby, 2004). Attempts to redress declining oyster stocks in Europe, which initially involved widespread transfers of native stocks of O. edulis and the Portuguese oyster, Crassostrea angulata, and the importation of Crassostrea virginica from the USA (Carlton and Mann, 1996), resulted in the introduction of oyster diseases, predators and competitors and accelerated the decline of native oysters (Spencer, 2002; Gosling, 2003). The twentieth century marked the start of scientific research into the cultivation of O. edulis which led to successful cultivation of microalgae to feed oyster larvae and increased success in the hatchery production of oyster spat (Cole, 1937, Bruce, Knight and Parke, 1940 and references therein). By the 1960s routine hatchery techniques for the cultivation of bivalve larvae, including O. edulis, had been developed (Loosanoff and Davis, 1963); this technology forms the basis of modern hatchery production of bivalve spat for aquaculture.
Oyster cultivation, based on the management of natural stocks in special areas, dates back to the seventeenth century in Japan and earlier in China and over 2000 years in Europe under the Romans (Yonge, 1960, 1970). Production by the exploitation of wild stocks of many species of oyster have shown fluctuating returns over the last hundred years matched by a gradual increase in aquaculture production between 1950 and 1990 and a major upsurge in oyster aquaculture, particularly in Asia, since 1990 (FIGIS, 2005). FAO statistics for Crassostrea gigas, which dominates global production may include other congeners and should be treated with caution (Gosling, 2003). Total world production of oysters in 2003 was 4.7 million tonnes, valued at US $3.8 billion, over 95% of which was produced by aquaculture (FIGIS, 2005). Flat oyster aquaculture, which accounted for approximately 0.1% of total global oyster production, yielded 5454 tonnes with a value of over US $21 million in 2003 and was dominated by O. edulis, (FIGIS, 2005).
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Ostrea edulis Linnaeus, 1758
Preferred Common Name
- European oyster
Other Scientific Names
- Ostrea adriatica Lam.-Middendorff, 1848
- Ostrea crynusi Payraudeau, 1826
- Ostrea taurica Krynicki, 1837
International Common Names
- English: European flat oyster; native oyster
- Spanish: ostra plana
- French: huître plate
Local Common Names
- Bulgaria: stridia
- Germany: auster
- Italy: ostrica
- Romania: stridie
- Russian Federation: ustritsa
- Turkey: istiride
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Metazoa
- Phylum: Mollusca
- Class: Bivalvia
- Subclass: Pteriomorphia
- Order: Ostreoida
- Unknown: Ostreoidea
- Family: Ostreidae
- Genus: Ostrea
- Species: Ostrea edulis
DistributionTop of page
The natural range of O. edulis is in the northeast Atlantic extending from Scandinavia to North Africa and into the Mediterranean Sea as far as the Black Sea (Yonge, 1960; Walne, 1965; Alvarez et al., 1989). The history of the introduction of the species to the Atlantic coast of North America, where it now has established self sustaining populations, is well documented (Hidu and Lavoie, 1991). The species has also become established in Western Australia (Morton et al., 2003) and Atlantic North America and is cultivated in California and Washington State, USA (Benson, 2005). Impacts of its introduction are unknown (Benson, 2005).
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.
ReferencesTop of page
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Cole HA, 1937. Experiments on the breeding of oysters (Ostrea edulis) in tanks, with special reference to the food of the larvae and spat. Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Fishery Investigations Series II, 15.
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Kennedy RJ; Roberts D, 1999. A survey of the current status of the flat oyster Ostrea edulis in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland, with a view to the restoration of its oyster beds. Biology and Environment: Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 99B(2):79-88.
Kennedy VS; Eble AF; Newell RIE, 1996. The Eastern Oyster: Crassostrea virginica. Maryland Sea Grant College, USA. 1-731.
Kirby MX, 2004. Fishing down the coast: historical expansion and collapse of oyster fisheries along continental margins. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 101(35):13096-13099.
Klaveness D, 1990. Size structure and potential food value of the plankton community to Ostrea edulis L. in a traditional Norwegian “østerpoll”. Aquaculture, 86:231-247.
Korringa P, 1940. Experiments and observations on swarming, pelagic life and setting in the European flat oyster, Ostrea edulis L. Arch. Neerl. Zool., 5:1-249.
Korringa P, 1952. Recent advances in oyster biology. Quarterly Review of Biology, 27:266-308, 339-365.
Laing I; Walker P; Areal F, 2005. A feasibility study of native oyster (Ostrea edulis) stock regeneration in the United Kingdom. CEFAS, 95pp.
Launey S; Ledu C; Boudry P; Bonhomme F; Naciri-Graven Y, 2002. Geographic structure in the European flat oyster (Ostrea edulis L.) as revealed by microsatellite polymorphism. Journal of Heredity, 93(5):331-338.
Leitão A; Chaves R; Santos S; Guedes-Pinto H; Boudry P, 2004. Restriction enzyme digestion chromosome banding in Crassostrea and Ostrea species: comparative karyological analysis within Ostreidae. Genome, 47(5):781-8.
Loosanaff VL, 1961. Gametogenesis and spawning of the European oyster, Ostrea edulis, in waters of Maine. Biological Bulletin, 122:86-94.
Loosanoff VL; Davis HC, 1963. Rearing of bivalve mollusks. Advances in Marine Biology, 1:1-136.
Mann R, 1979. Some biochemical and physiological aspects of growth and gametogenesis in Crassostrea gigas and Ostrea edulis grown at sustained elevated temperatures. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 59:95-110.
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Wilson JH, 1981. Hatchery rearing of Ostrea edulis and Crassostrea gigas. Aquaculture Technical Bulletin, Ireland, 4:1-34.
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ContributorsTop of page
David "Dai" Roberts
Marine Systems Research Group, School of Biology and Biochemistry, Medical Biology Centre, Queen's University, Belfast BT9 7BL, UK
Distribution MapsTop of page
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